Dhaka Art Summit, made in Bangladesh

30 mai 2016

Becoming a major event in Southeast Asia, the Dhaka Art Summit and its 300 emerging artists sets Bangladesh on the route of contemporary art.

Usually, when the name Bangladesh comes to our western ears, we often anticipate bad news. Between political upheavals, devastating cyclones and unremitting floods, this overpopulated country seems anchored on poverty and misery. Primarily known for its textile industry and its inhuman conditions of work, Bangladesh is even considered by Henry Kissinger as a "basket case" (hopeless) and the drawn painting is far from being rosy.  However, Bangladeshi paintings – and beautiful ones – are under the spotlight since 2012 when the first edition of the Dhaka Art Summit was kicked off.

When art breaks boundaries

In the heart of the suffocating capital Dhaka, amid the dusty streets and heavy traffic, a biennale dedicated to contemporary art is being held since 2012. Another Bangladesh is trying to flourish in the shadow of his noisy Indian and Pakistani neighbors, in a region where Art does not always hold the place it deserves. This crazy challenge has been taken up by Rajeeb Samdani. This dynamic man in his forties, naturally talented for international business was at the head of the Golden Harvest Group (real estate, IT, food ...) when he started this adventure in 2011, aiming to support local artists. He fell in love with Art when he married his wife Nadia, daughter of Khalibur Rahman Choudhry, avid collector. 

(The Samdani couple)

This is when he started to travel that he realized how short Bangladesh was in terms of structures, money or financial support given to the local artists.  He thus created the Samdani Foundation and patrons since then artists from the region. "There is no contemporary art museum. No one has experienced Art in this country. Our main concern explains Rajeeb Samdani, is to educate people and provide a platform for young artists. That’s our main problem:  the lack of visibility and a poor artistic education."

Through trips and exhibitions, the Bangladeshi artistic community discovers a new world of possibilities until then unknown. And the ultimate ambition of the Samdani couple is to bring the world to Bangladesh ...

"From day one I sail against the wind"

In February 2012, a month after controversial parliamentary elections that fevered the country, the Dhaka Art Summit threw his first edition. The Samdani couple sailed against winds to make it happen all the more so they had to juggle with logistical, financial and political problems. Despite the millions of dollars spent, this festival looked a little bit amateur but has set a huge precedent in the artistic solitude of Bangladesh.

For the second edition in 2014, 70,000 visitors walked on the Dhaka soil and wandered through artworks of artists from all over South Asia. And in early 2016, the third edition attracted 140,000 curious, 300 artists and for the first time European collectors and curators as Aurélien Lemonnier (Centre Pompidou) and Daniel Baumann (Kusthalle Zurich).

 Now unmissable in the Asian continent, the Dhaka Art Summit starts to be internationally renowned. Although Bangladesh has not yet museum of contemporary art, the couple Samdani caused a breach in the world of contemporary art. "We cannot stop this tremendous flow" enthusiastically adds Rajeeb Samdani who is giving us an appointment in 2018.

Shefali Ranthe, ode to joy of living

Born in 1979 in Bangladesh, Shefali Ranthe quickly adopted by a Danish father. From a young age, art accompanies his life. She sings, dances, photography, collages composed and engages in computer graphics. It touches everything. When something new draws, it must venture. For her creation and experimentation are inseparable.

The artist tries out different styles after a Japanese and African time she experimented with pop art and is now focusing on his series of paintings "Joy of Life" during a business trip to Dubai. Influenced by the work of some of his contemporaries such as Danish Bjørn Bjørnholt, Finn Sorensen and Poul Pava, she draws her inspiration mostly from her children. She wanted them how to draw spontaneously, without any limits, rules or fear of criticism. Shefali begins his paintings with an abstract background and soothing and perfect his work step by step, using oil paint, chalk, sand and cloth. Like her, his works are brimming with energy and encourage us to appreciate the art "as a color cocktail, spiced by our joy of living"